News Tidbits 1/31/2012: The Big Red Bandhouse Will NOT Be Open This Summer

31 01 2012

Image Property of Cornell University

Dear Cornell Daily Sun – If a building starts construction in June 2012 with a tentative completion date of January 2013, in no feasible terms will the building be open by the summer of 2012.

Anyway, semantics aside, the design of the Big Red Bandhouse (or as I like to think of it, Fischell Hall) has been released. It’s a whole lot of Big Red Boring, but I suppose its purpose is more functional than aesthetic. It fits the general theme of ultramodern buildings that the university has more than happy to construct in the past several years.

Image Property of Cornell University

With the extra large front doors open, it kinda resembles a “Dust Buster” portable vacuum.The architects are the same folks responsible for the Plantations Welcome Center.

To allay the fears of the budget-conscious, the building is expected to be paid for entirely by private donations from Big Red Band alumni (in what I imagine will be a veritable inundation of pleas to their alumni to donate). The site is the current location of a small maintenance building (the Schoellkopf Garage), which will be removed and most likely rebuilt somewhere nearby.

I’m not a fan of the design (which should come as no surprise to frequent readers of this blog), but I figure this building was meant to be functional more than anyone else.

News Tidbits 1/19/2012: Ithaca Develops Its Waterfront

19 01 2012

In today’s “Holy crap WTF” factor, the full scale of the Johnson Boatyard project has been released. I expected to hear about the 20 or so townhomes expected, and that was about it. But the project is, uh, quite big by Ithaca standards.

This starts by going back to last year, when Ithaca modified its waterfront zoning to accommodate larger, denser projects (this was not without contention). It appears that Jeff Cleveland, the owner and potential developer, plans to take advantage of that in a big way.

The proposal for the boatyard is as follows

The boatyard itself will be closed and 4 buildings are set to be demolished on the site. In their place will go the following:

11 three-story attached townhouse units with a gross square footage of 62,500 sq ft.

5 5-story mixed-use structures. These will contain 130-150 residential units occupying an area of 215,000 sq ft, and another 15,000 sq ft of retail commercial space. This includes 290 parking spaces on the side of Pier Road, with a roundabout installed at the end of Pier.

A plaza, a waterfront promenade, and a pier along Cascadilla Creek. The seawall will be rebuilt and all the boat slips will be retained. Essentially, the entire 7.8 acre property will be completely redeveloped.

This project would, perhaps, give Ithaca the developed waterfront it never had (or following the opinions of some locals, never wanted). The location is a bit weird because it’s outside of the more developed areas of the city (Inlet island seemed like a more logical winner from the change in zoning).  Walking across the promenade will give a lovely view of some trees…and the wastewater treatment plant right across the water. Unusual project, and surprisingly large project, but it wasn’t clear what was going to be built in what phases (my guess is that it is still the townhouses first, and some staggered development from there). Impressive proposal if but only for the scale of the project.

Where Have All the Drinkers Gone?

13 01 2012

I had first seen rumors of this on facebook, but it was only verified by the Sun sometime last night: The Royal Palm Tavern, or rather, “The Palms”, is closing, after 70ish years of service to the inebriated community (I’ve seen opening dates ranging from the late 1930s to 1944; the Sun went with 1941). The Palms closing next month will mark the third Collegetown bar closing in less than year, following in the footsteps of Dino’s and Johnny O’s.

I think most older readers of this blog have some memory attached to one or more these places. The Alumni Magazine did a nice piece about drinking-holes of yesteryear just back in November, complete with the line “the Royal Palm Tavern—still open, despite recent rumors to the contrary—has served a steady stream of students since the Thirties.” To some extent, I worry with the closure of multiple bars and the restrictions on fraternity parties are only furthering the move to drinking in the rundown houses of Collegetown, arguably a more dangerous environment than the aforementioned options. Let’s be honest, if a third of the drinking establishments in Collegetown have closed, and traffic was pretty high on many nights as it was, the traffic that would go elsewhere might just get frustrated with the lines and crowding and just drink at a private party. For the record, Johnny O’s closed after legal issues and their landlord opted for another tenant, and Dino’s was not allowed to renew their lease. The Palms is closing because of financial issues, and the owners are retiring.

As much as I could pursue an entry just on drinking culture/concerns, I’d rather stick to what I do best – Ithaca history and development. First, the Palms’ property, at 209 Dryden Road,  is not for sale, it has already been sold.

That is, unsurprisingly, a prime, prime piece of property to tap into the more expensive segment of the Collegetown market. Now, being such a prime property carries a hefty price tag, so the developers would have to be fairly deep-pocketed, and in fact they are; it’s the firm Novarr-Mackesey, the same developers of the massive Collegetown Terrace project. The rumor mill has been cranking out the possibility of a mid-rise or high-rise apartment building on the site of the Palms. Unfortunately, at this early stage, it’s hard to say what the proposal will look like.

However, there are two certainties – they’re going to have one hell of a time tearing the Palms down, and if it goes over 60 feet (or over 6 stories, whichever comes first), then it’ll be even more difficult because they’ll need a height variance (B-2b zoning says building should be 6 stories or less, and no more than 60′ feet from base to roof). The zoning could be pliable depending on any fringe benefits for the city or any public enhancements (for example, offering public meeting space). The building was built around the early 1920s, and has operated as a restaurant/bar for virtually all of its life, and is seen as a potential historic landmark. Notably, some of the members of the Planning board also put together the historic buildings document. If Novarr-Mackesey wants to build anything, I see this being a prolonged battle, especially if it needs to go up to the Zoning Board of Appeals, where more objections can be raised.

Honestly, I hope to see something, because if buildings appear totally vacant like this, giving a poor impression to visitors and potential students, that is unacceptable:

Update: The Palms and two neighboring buildings on Dryden were sold last year toan LLC associated with Novarr-Mackesey for $3.75 million, well over their assessed value. In the Cornell Sun, Novarr claims there are no set plans for the location yet, but there will probably be a housing component. Considering his work with Collegetown Terrace, which will not be finished until 2014, it could be a couple years before financing and plans are lined up for the site’s redevelopment – leaving that part of the street rather blighted in the short term.

News tidbits 1/6/2012: If You Screwed Up Once, You Can Screw Up Again

6 01 2012

As time has gone on and I become more removed from my days at Cornell, this blog focuses less and less on student-specific events, such as Greek Life. But then, news articles like this pop up:

After Hospitalization, TKE May Lose Recognition

January 6, 2012
By Jeff Stein

Cornell will revoke its recognition of Tau Kappa Epsilon following reports of an alcohol-related hospitalization of a freshman unless the fraternity succeeds in its appeal of the decision, according to multiple sources.

In a memo obtained by The Sun on Thursday, University administrators faulted TKE for reportedly failing to ensure the safety of a highly intoxicated individual — the same oversight that officials say led to the death of George Desdunes ’13 last spring. Sixteen former pledges of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the fraternity in which Desdunes died, joined TKE a few months later.

The freshman, who had been consuming alcohol before attending TKE’s event, arrived at a recruitment dinner hosted by TKE at the China Buffet on Nov. 11. While it “remains unclear if he continued to consume alcohol at the dinner,” TKE did provide both beer and hard alcohol at the event, the report states.

But as early as September, the University had reason to believe “rumors that SAE has been operating through TKE,” according to the report, when administrators learned of plans for the “White Party” — an event “historically hosted by SAE [as a] social activity attracting hundreds of community members.”

“Out of great concern for the safety of attendees, considering that TKE would not be prepared to host a large event such as this, due to their inexperience, we placed the chapter on interim suspension,” the report states.

The memo then notes that, in a meeting with administrators, fraternity leadership agreed to cancel the event, terminate plans they had to “induct ‘little sisters’” and work with the TKE national organization toward building TKE “traditions that the community could support, as opposed to adopting SAE traditions.”

Despite these promises, “it became clear in that meeting that SAE’s former members, those who were fully initiated and have no affiliation with TKE, have significant influence on TKE as an organization,” the report states.


I read stories like this and I cringe. I’m a fairly avid supporter of Greek Life at Cornell. But stories like this make me rethink my stance. I understand that the person may or may not have consumed beverages at their recruitment dinner. Okay, innocent until proven guilty. But you’d think for a group of pledges that watched some of their pledgebrothers be indicted for killing someone, they’d use a little more precaution than “we’ll just drop him back off at his room and hope he’ll be fine”.

But that seems to merely be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The administration was bothered by how the chapter became SAE with a different set of letters. I couldn’t agree more. I am strongly bothered by the open flaunting of the SAE connection, and figuratively (maybe literally?) pissing on TKE’s original brotherhood and traditions (not that it wasn’t expected). I don’t know how much of the comments on the article to believe, but I don’t think they’re far from the mark. Calling yourself “Epsilon” because you feel the fraternity that took you in is so inferior you still have to tie it in to SAE (stating the obvious here, but it’s a nod to the fact that both Tau Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Epsilon share that letter). It just disgusts me. You’re not SAE. SAE of Cornell was doomed the moment George Desdunes died due to alcohol poisoning administered during a pledge kidnapping.

It’s sad. Sad that TKE was so desperate for social status and growth that they sold out everything their brotherhood was. Sad that SAE let someone die. Sad that one organization is gone completely and the other one is about to be kicked off campus. Sad that this reflects on the whole system, which is in a percarious enough position as it is.

What an ignominious way to go. I hope as a Greek alumnus that if my fraternity was ever in TKE’s position that they would just close instead of selling out.